10 Christmas Scams To Look Out For

Posted December 7th, 2023 by SimpliSafe

Stay protected this Christmas, as SimpliSafe shares five Christmas scams to look out for, and how to avoid them.

Original publish date: 1st December 2022

Last updated: 7th December 2023

What is a Christmas scam?

With the holiday season fast approaching, keen shoppers must remain vigilant when browsing the web in search of a good deal. Scammers often target Christmas shoppers, using a variety of deceptive methods that aim to uncover sensitive personal information, such as financial details or identity documents. Once they obtain these details, it’ll be easier for them to access your bank account or commit identity theft. 

So, don’t fall victim to the Christmas rush, and keep your wits about you as you scour the web. By learning how to recognise the key characteristics of common scams, you can stop a scammer in their tracks before the situation escalates. 

Christmas scams to look out for 

1. Fake websites

Christmas scammers may try to copy professional websites - from the typography to images - as much as possible, all to lure their unsuspecting victims into making a purchase. However, in these instances, the outcome is a little less festive. Scammers could use this as a way to get their hands on personal information, or to put malware on your system - a Christmas surprise you definitely won’t want to wake up to. To stay safe, keep an eye out for grammatical errors, typos and dodgy URLs, and check the contact information provided. If you’re struggling to get hold of someone, and are instead met with a generic, prerecorded voice message, you may have landed on a fake site. 

2. Gift card scams

When purchasing a Christmas gift and making your way to the checkout, be wary if you’re asked to pay in gift cards. This is a popular scam that allows fraudsters to steal money from their victims, mainly because gift cards are untrackable. A legitimate seller will always ask you to pay using a credit card, or via a trusted, secure payment platform such as PayPal. 

3. Holiday phishing scams

Jetting away this Christmas? Be wary of phishing scams or other types of holiday scams to avoid spoiling the festivities. Scammers may use Black Friday to their advantage by enticing holiday-goers with fake advertisements. From flight booking scams to accommodation scams, if you’re not careful, your entire holiday could be ruined. 

So, how do you avoid holiday booking scams? Ultimately, if an offer appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. Before letting the excitement cloud your judgement, you should always check whether your holiday packages are ABTA or ATOL protected, which means that you’ll be legally and financially covered if something should go wrong. You could also check whether your accommodation has genuine good reviews online to confirm whether it’s legitimate. Just as before, keep an eye out for spelling errors and incorrect URLs, which could indicate that you’re being scammed through an email or you’ve been linked to a spoofed website. If you can, always pay for a holiday or other big expenses on a credit card so you’re covered. 

4. Delivery scams 

‘Smishing’ - which is the name given to phishing scams that use mobile phones and text messages to communicate with victims - is yet another scam that commonly circulates at Christmas. Scammers deceive the recipient by sending a text which says that the courier was unable to make a delivery. They will then ask their victim to provide their personal and financial details to rearrange the delivery, which opens the door to fraud.

If you’re expecting plenty of parcels this Christmas, don’t fall victim to smishing. Never share sensitive information with someone you don’t know, and if you did need to be contacted regarding a missed delivery, you should receive an official email from a trusted source. You can also check your parcel tracking information on the retailer or courier’s official website rather than clicking on links in emails or texts.

5. E-card scams 

If you receive a digital greeting card this Christmas, open it with caution. Although most are usually harmless and sent with good intent, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk of being scammed. Some E-cards will contain malware that allows a hacker to access your financial information, which is a recipe for disaster. 

Before opening an E-card, always check the sender and delete any that have been sent from an unknown source. Sometimes scammers can even pose as friends or family members, so contact them to see if they have in fact sent you an E-card. For an additional layer of security, you should install security software on your computer, which should protect your device if you accidentally open a fake E-card. 

6. Fake social media ads

Always be wary of what you see on social media. In addition to undisclosed sponsorships and misleading advertising, scams are also rampant on social media apps. In fact, according to research conducted by the Better Business Bureau, 40% of online shopping scams come from Facebook and Instagram ads.

Over the Christmas period, you’ll likely notice an increase in gift ads and sale promotions on social media. To sort through what’s legitimate and what’s not, follow these simple tips:

  • Avoid clicking on links - if you do click a link, hover over it first to see where it’s taking you.

  • Shop from known and trusted retailers - if you’re discovering a retailer for the first time through social media, always do some research first before attempting to buy anything.

  • Check comments and reviews, but bear in mind that these can be faked.

  • If you’re suspicious of an ad supposedly published by a well-known retailer, check their website to see if the products or promotions are real.

  • If a friend shares an ad or link with you out of the blue, contact them elsewhere first to make sure they haven’t been hacked.

  • Remember that extremely steep discounts are usually too good to be true. A clear red flag is a heavily discounted product paired with high shipping fees. Your product may never actually arrive, or you could receive a poorly-made counterfeit item.

7. Seasonal job scams

Christmas can be a financially tough time of year, which is why scammers can be more likely to target vulnerable people with fake job scams around this period. Plus, many legitimate companies do hire seasonal workers to handle the higher workloads at Christmas, so it can sometimes be hard for people to spot what’s real and what’s fake.

To help keep your financial details safe, remember to never give out information such as your banking details without being officially hired first. Scammers will often lure people in with promises of very high wages for simple tasks, and will then pressure people into giving up their information without a proper interview or hiring process. If a seasonal job wants you to start working after only exchanging messages over the internet, this is a red flag. Always research the company and evaluate the hiring process before proceeding.

8. Fake charities

Christmas is the season of giving, but be aware that some people will try to exploit your generosity. We don’t want to put people off donating to charities at Christmas, but it’s important to do your research and make sure the charity you’re donating to is legitimate. Search the charity register on the UK government website to determine if the charity is real. Legitimate charities should also have a registered charity number shown clearly on their website.

If you’re approached by a fundraiser in the street, they should have an ID badge showing the charity they work for. They should also be happy to answer any further questions and shouldn’t pressure you into donating money on the spot.

9. Suspicious Christmas apps

Apps stores are flooded with free Christmas-themed apps, including Santa trackers and festive games. These apps can be great for entertaining kids, but at the same time, they could be designed by crafty scammers. For example, these free apps can sometimes ask for too many permissions from your phone and push expensive in-app purchases. 

While this may not be a huge issue for adults who are used to dealing with apps, kids with unsupervised access to these suspicious apps may end up spending their parents’ money on these in-app transactions. Therefore, before letting your kids use any Christmas apps, always check the reviews in the app store and try out the app yourself first. It’s also a good idea to start educating your children about home security and internet safety as soon as possible.

10. AI scams

One of the most worrying AI developments in recent years is the use of AI voice cloning technology in scam phone calls. One of the key features of these scams is the sense of urgency and panic they try to create. These AI phone calls will typically trick the victim into thinking a loved one is in distress or danger and needs money urgently, prompting them to send money straight to the scammer’s account. 

These scams can be terrifyingly convincing, but one way you can protect yourself if you encounter one this Christmas is to set a family codeword that will prove a phone call or message is legitimate. If you get one of these AI scam calls, you should also hang up and call your loved one directly to find out if the caller ID was spoofed.

Make sure that your property is protected not just this Christmas, but all year round, with the SimpliSafe home security system. Customise your own perfect security system with a variety of additional alarm sensors, and sign up to our professional monitoring plan for complete peace of mind over the festive period. Want to find out more? Contact our team today.